26 August 2006

Special Saturday "Reads Brooklyn" Edition

Being the well-rounded guy that I am, there are quite a few things I enjoy doing when I'm not running (or dissertating, of course). I like going to ballgames, for example (though I've only been to a half-dozen this year), and I'm definitely looking forward to the new opera season (which starts in just a few weeks). But perhaps most of all, I love to read. Because of my Brooklyn explorations I've been spending considerable time thumbing through some useful references, like Leonardo Benardo and Jennifer Weiss' Brooklyn by Name, Francis Morrone's An Architectural Guidebook to Brooklyn, Ellen Snyder-Grenier's Brooklyn! An Illustrated History, and -- my favorite -- John Manbeck and Kenneth Jackson's The Neighborhoods of Brooklyn on Yale University Press. All of these have proven invaluable in getting to know my way around the borough and in providing me with some very useful background and history on the city and the various neighborhoods I've been visiting.

But I read a lot more than this kind of thing, and my favorite reading material is still good fiction. I realize that "good" is, in part, a value judgment and representative of my own tastes, so -- purely for the purposes of clarification -- here are some of the books I've read recently which fall into this category. Make of it what you will.
This is just a pretty random sampling off the top of my head, and I suppose it's pretty representative of what I like (Lethem's is also a great Brooklyn novel in addition to being a terrific read). However, my favorite book of the last decade or so is David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, which I think is one of the greatest things I've ever read. I've just started his newest novel, Black Swan Green, and though its first-person, semi-autobiographical story is about as far removed from Cloud Atlas as imaginable, I'm enjoying it very much so far.

Anyway... with the passing rain showers and gloomy skies, it seems like a particularly good day to sit by the kitchen window and read for a few hours. I'll be back running tomorrow, so tune in then for more tales from the sidewalks of Kings County. As usual, here's an off-day photo from the archives:

Congress Street


At 3:49 PM, Anonymous jen said...

I have been trying to get my book group to read Cloud Atlas for awhile (the group tends mostly toward the postmodern/experimental/anything Pynchonesque), but we haven't got to it yet. May just read it on my own. I was just re-reading some parts of Fortress of Solitude for the Berkeley mentions. Fun entry!

At 1:36 PM, Blogger Gary said...

Your group should *definitely* read Cloud Atlas! It's not quite in the same category as Pynchon or Wallace or whatever (speaking of, I was hoping to re-read Gravity's Rainbow this summer, but alas...), but I was just grinning like an idiot the whole time I was reading it. Not because it was funny, necessarily (though some of it definitely is), but because I was just so impressed at Mitchell's cleverness and intelligence, and from the sheer pleasure of reading something so well-written. Great stuff.


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